Beaverkill ... My Beaverkill
by Lloyd Barnhart
West Sand Lake, NY

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There was a time…Oh, from about the summer of ‘54 right on through the 60’s and into the 70’s , that I owned a stretch of the Beaverkill River.  I didn’t really own it, in the legal sense, but it was mine just the same.  From the Stuhlmiller Hole to the north, to Pete’s Eddy to the south, I knew that river like the back of my hand….Knew it better than anyone else.  That stretch of river was my playground  from the opening of trout season (As a boy, I often opened the season early.) right through summer and into fall when the water cooled off and got high.

Along with swimming and exploring, I regularly did battle with the Beaverkill trout.  I got to the point where if I knew of a big trout and wanted to catch him, I’d get him!  I might not get him on the first try; oftentimes it took several attempts to get a targeted fish.  If I wanted him, however, I got him.  (Must admit here to the use of some less-than-legal methods on occasion:  “fingering“ trout was a country boy specialty.)  Which brings two quick stories to mind.

One summer, a huge brown trout took up residence in the Sliding Rock pool, and word quickly got around that he was there.  The adult fishermen attacked in full force:   Paul Temple could not tempt him with his favorite silver Phoebe.  Joe Argent threw everything in his arsenal with nary a look from that big trout.  Even the master fly fisherman, Charlie Hartman, trained at the elbow of Roy Steenrod, struck out.  Hell, as I recall, even old Charlie Voght dragged himself down from Charlie Allen’s and failed with his multiple wet fly rig.  That big old brown jus would not strike…..Or, would he?

After a few days of scouting, I was convinced I could catch the Sliding Rock trout.  It would just take an innovative lure…something he hadn’t already seen.  Aha!  I’d build a surface plug (for trout?);  that would get him.  My lure was a gem:  picture a wooden clothes pin…a screw eye…and a long shanked bullhead hook, assembled together and painted green with black spots (for trout?)  Once completed, I headed for Sliding Rock with my newly handmade lure.

At Sliding Rock, the riffle coming in from Charlie Allen’s runs toward and under the rock, creating a great trout  lair along and under the downstream edge of the rock.  From there, the monster could wait for the meal(s) of his choice to be brought to him.  It was into that riffle, well above the rock, that I cast my green and black.  Now, a clothes pin has no action of its own, but those Beaverkill rapids made my lure dance seductively.  As it neared the rock, I saw a huge shape move out from under the rock and up toward the surface.  WHAM!  That big trout hit my lure with explosive force!  He cleared the water and smashed my lure so hard it flew through the air all the way back to me, landing at my feet.  (My strike may have been a little explosive itself, and using a single hook was obviously a mistake.)

Ha!  Nobody had moved that fish before; couldn’t make him strike.  Well, hell…they just weren’t using the right bait.  I made him strike…strike visciously!  I gathered up my gear and headed for home, thinking to myself, “I got him!”  And, as I left, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Temple and Argent at the foot of the pool…..just shaking their heads.  (In truth, I didn’t land/kill that trout, but……I got him!  As far as I know, that monster died of old age.)

The next little bit I want to tell you here has to do with fishing confidence:  A confident fisherman will catch fish, while the guy who is constantly second guessing himself most often goes home fishless.  For many, fishing confidence is related to gear, particularly lures/baits.  I can remember old Burr Reeves fishing for hours using nothing but a Zara Spook surface plug.  When I asked him why he always used the Spook, he replied, “Cause it’s my best lure…I have caught tons of fish on it…I’m confident in it…It makes me a better fisherman!”  (Later, on a day when no one was catching anything, and he’s been flailing away with the Spook for hours and likewise catching nothing, I asked why he stuck with it on such a day.  His response, “Cause if the fish ain’t hitting, and I’m not catching any…Then I’m gonna not catch ‘em on my favorite lure!”)

For me, my trout fishing confidence on the Beaverkill was greatest on a single day each year, Exhibit Day.  Exhibit Day at the Roscoe Central School (There probably was a more formal name for it, but everyone simply referred to it as Exhibit Day.)  was an annual afternoon/evening in May  where student performance, projects, productions and skills were displayed for parents and townsfolk to see, share and enjoy.

Well, about the time I got old enough to have become a pretty damn good trout fisherman, I ran out of things academic worthy of display on Exhibit Day.  So, while not wanting to observe the exhibits of others while suffering endless comparison with my bright brothers, I simply said, “To hell with Exhibit Day!”  I headed for the Beaverkill to go fishing instead.  (Occasionally, my mother would make me go, so I could show her some dumb shop project I had completed, but even then, I slipped out early and went fishing.)

My very first outing on Exhibit Day produced a nice mess of browns:  five fish…8-12 inches…all caught on a gold Phoebe.  (I was immediately hooked on Exhibit Day fishing.)Another year, high water had spilled some brookies out of Albee’s ponds into the river, and my Exhibit Day bag included three brooks and four browns…7-13 inches…caught on a Mepps spinner.  My absolute best Exhibit Day was when I was probably a sophomore in high school, or thereabouts.  The water was up and  discolored from a morning rainstorm.  I hit Secret Pond and Sliding Rock, using garden hackle and returned home with three big browns:  15...17...18+ inches.  Now that’s a mess of fish!  (Charlie Allen opined, “Take ‘em down to school…slap ‘em on a god dam desk and give those people something worthwhile to look at!”)

Yes, I could catch trout on Exhibit Day.  I expect I still could.  (Hmmm…How/where can I get a copy of Roscoe school calendar?)

I have been babbling here…getting ahead of myself, for sure.  Perhaps, however, you are now in the proper frame of mind to read what follows, a poetic essay,  BEAVERKILL…..MY BEAVERKILL.  With it, I’d like to acquaint you with my Beaverkill, but I’d like to do it in a suggestive manner, allowing you to flesh out any hints of stories as you might envision them.  That way my Beaverkill can become yours.

Read on…..and use your imagination…….


It was with the Daubek brothers
That I first visited Secret Pond.

It was the magic of that place
That lured me soon to the Beaverkill beyond.

Secret Pond was part of the river,
Sort of an off-shoot, slip-off pool.

It drew this country boy like a magnet
To fish there, whenever out of school.

The pool above was Charlie Allen’s.
The downstream pool was Sliding Rock

“Only fair fishing,” said the purists in tweeds.
To which I replied, “Yeah, right…what a crock!”

I learned to swim above a rock dam at Charlie’s
Made by volunteer firemen to add water to the old Mill Race.

Later, when I demonstrated my aquatic skills to Mom,
My half-underwater thrashing put a smile on her face.

Once drown-proof, or so I thought,
I hastened on downstream to tackle the slide.

The rock’s broad side slanted down and into the water,
And when well-lathered up could provide a helluva ride.

As a young boy, I played much; 
As I grew older, I fished more.

I caught fish, too…lots of fish
Which often made grown men sore.


I clearly recall a 25/5 brown caught at Charlie’s.
That to this day is my biggest trout ever.


Catching that monster on a homemade lure
Provided an experience I’ll remember forever.

Enhancing the memory was the presence of my cheering squad.
Claude and Fritz were there hollering and hooting.

Claude came armed with a sawed-off 12 gauge.
While Fritz was yelling…He was shooting.

I caught an 18/3 at Sliding Rock,
And hauled in a 22/3+ from Secret Pond.

Though I have caught many fish, big and small, since then,
It’s the memories of those three of which I’m most fond.

Upstream of Charlie’s, about half a mile
At the end of my stretch was the Stuhlmiller Hole.

It was/is the quintessential Catskill trout pool.
I headed there often when a mess of trout was my goal.

I recall fishing there once with Jan TerLouw:
I was fishing bait; he was casting flies.

When I tell of the dozen trout I caught…all over a foot,
TerLouw can attest that I’m not telling lies.

The downstream terminus of my stretch was Pete’s Eddy.
It was wider and flatter…more suited for bass.

But an occasional big trout could be found
Slurping flies from its surface of glass.

Purists decried the feisty smallmouths
That clobbered whatever they threw into the water at Pete’s.

I just caught ‘em and kept ‘em;
Took ‘em home for some mighty fine eats.

Sliding Rock and Stuhlmiller’s were deep water pools,
With incoming rapids cutting around and under large boulders.


Their waters were tame, however, quite friendly to a boy.
I often waded in right up to my shoulders.

Pete’s and Charlie’s waters were slower and calmer,
And plenty deep enough for a refreshing swim.

On hot summer days when the fish wouldn’t bite,
We learned to swim there, together, me and Jim.

The main four pools of my mile long stretch
Lay at the base, to the east of steep Bon Air ridge.

Mountain shade daily cooled the pools’ western edges, and
Late afternoon/evening fishing was often productive with minnow or midge.

Shade from the mountains on both sides of the stream
Limited the time each day when swimming was fun.

Our bathing was done mid day, into mid afternoon,
If we wanted to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

There was a lot of water between Charlie’s and Stuhlmiller’s,
And nearly as much between Pete’s and the Rock.

There were riffles aplenty, with shallower water…smaller pools.
Their western edge cooled by mountain shade and overhanging hemlock.

My initiation into the fine sport of flyfishing
Was undertaken just above Charlie’s at Archer’s run.

Hours of flailing at those many small pockets and pools
Soon convinced me that flyfishing could really be fun.

But, a bit of background on this flyfishing bit:
My first rig was a hand-me-down from a neighbor next door.

But it was my mother, not Hartman
Who, in the backyard, became my casting mentor.

Deer always crossed the river at Archer’s.
A major run came slanting down the mountain to the riverside there.


Though the mountain was posted…off limits to us,
With bows/arrows, we waded across to ambush that run with nary a care.

There was a time of high water and Gerald without boots
When I carried him across where the river narrows.

I missed four times that day, but would say not a word.
Midstream, coming back, Gerald exclaimed, “Hey…you are out of arrows!”

Above Archer’s were the Stuhlmiller flats:
Water so unappealing that we seldom fished there.

On good days, with water up and temperature down,
With Wob-L-Rites and Phoebes, fishing was only fair.

Downstream, between Sliding Rock and Pete’s
Were the in-between waters that I liked best.

With small pools that were deeper; rocks that were bigger,
Holding both trout and bass that put my fishing skills to the test.

I recall Gerald and I hitting that section
On a long ago spring day when his baseball game was washed out.

Using Mepps and Phoebes, we caught brooks and browns.
For supper that night, we had a fine mess of trout.

Brian once caught a 17 inch brown from that middle water
Using an ultra-lite rig and live bait.

And Schulte and I double teamed a 3+ lb. smallmouth
That even the trout purists thought was first rate.

Improvements were made to that section in the ‘70’s.
“Going to make it better for fish and fishing,” they said.

Pool diggers and deflectors just did not seem to work.
Their impact was only negative on the natural streambed.

And, on that down note, I’ll end my tale
Based on memories of My Beaverkill.


Oh, how I would like to go home and fish there again,
But with home no longer there…I never will.

And, even if I did, things would be different.
Surely the stream has changed; I know not what I’d find.

So, I’ll just sit on the porch and sip whiskey,
And recall My Beaverkill from the corners of my mind!



Although it’s no longer mine, I have occasionally gone back to the Beaverkill…mostly to that stretch below Pete’s, around the public parking area near where my mother now lives.  I, along with Brian, Justin and Brandon, have caught fish there, but it has never been like the old days…when I fished My Beaverkill.

The river has changed dramatically…for a variety of reasons…most notably the three major (and, I do mean major!) floods that have hit the Beaverkill valley within the past 15 years.  The river has been wrecked! Most pools, large and small, that once were…are no more.  Rocks have been shifted and moved; rapids flattened and extended.  The river has lost the character it possessed back when it was mine.

At Charlie Allen’s, the river has shifted to the east, so that Secret Pond is now in the river proper.  It is no longer a side-spill pool, and is pretty much a flat run, not a pool at all.  Charlie’s pool, itself, no longer exists:  With an extended public water supply system, the Rockland firemen no longer rely on Mill Pond water to fight fires.  Hence, the rock dam was never rebuilt.  No dam = no pool.  The eastward river shift caused the rapids below Charlie’s to miss Sliding Rock…miss it by so much that it is no longer part of the river.  (My God…Is nothing sacred?)  The in-between waters, upstream and down have been flattened;  they have lost any/all appeal they once had.  Even Pete’s has been destroyed…it’s deep water gone. But, on a positive note:  Stuhlmiller’s wasn’t totally ruined.  It is arguably the best trout pool that remains.

So… much of what was My Beaverkill no longer exists.  Although I could go back…I won’t.  I’d rather just remember…remember those times long ago when I was young and the river was mine.  Gerald says the river will rebuild itself over time.  Regrettably, I fear I have not that much time.  I will be content to visit the Beaverkill of my mind…My Beaverkill!

One last note:  I often write stuff with my objective being to help others remember.  I want my kids and grandkids to remember some of our experiences together.  So, I write suggestive poems…or poetic essays…simple stories…and occasional haiku to stimulate or spark a remembrance.  This piece, MY BEAVERKILL, however, I wrote for me.  I was looking for a way to remember…a way to once more experience the joy that was provided by My Beaverkill.  To that end, I have been successful.  If any readers enjoy MY BEAVERKILL…that’s gravy!

I’ll leave you now…and head back to Secret Pond…or maybe to Sliding Rock.  Come along if you’d like ..…………………………….

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